Ruby can be so paranoid sometimes. Some stupid guy cranks her on the phone and she thinks the worst. Probably some bored creep with a hard on. I thought she just needed some more tequila to settle her down.
We stayed out by the pool until it got too dark and then we moved the margaritas inside.
"Let's watch a couple of movies," I said, "and do our nails."
She nodded and I went to get the nail stuff. Hers looked pretty good despite her gardening job at the nursery and I never stressed mine that much in the summers.
But I was going out with Lars tomorrow night and wanted them to look nice. When I got back, she sat on the floor with her back against the couch, sipping another glass of margarita. I joined her and set up the kit. God, her nails were a mess, I thought as I started filing them down.
"What do you do with them?"
"I work with plants all day," she said, "Lucky I have any left at all."
I shook my head and continued.
"Those texts are so creepy."
I stopped a moment looking at her.
"Ruby you got to stop worrying about some little creep who probably needs to shock random callers to jack off."
"Maybe but it sounds like someone who knows me."
"Maybe…but they're just texts. You can erase them."
Ruby appeared to consider that but she still looked troubled.
"It's been such a weird summer."
"You say that almost as if it were a bad thing."
She looked at me.
"No…not at all…except for thinking I might be pregnant…"
"You're not…so what's the problem?"
"No problem…It's just…"
But she didn't finish and I put the file down and moved towards buffing her nails which looked quite a bit better.
"Brock's a cool guy," I said, "You could do a lot worse."'
Ruby paused and then she smiled.
"You're right about that," she said, "He actually wants to go to this Midsummer Ball."
"Of course he does," I said, "It'll be the happening event of the summer at least according to my mom."
"I'm looking forward to it now that I've got a dress…but I don't know if Brock's going to make me happy or whether he really wants to be there."
I sighed. Ruby really needed a self esteem transplant sometimes but I figured it had to do not being raised by a mom who was her roommate more than anything else.
"Something in pink…"
I selected a color that I thought would go good with her. She really was quite pretty even though it'd taken a while for her body to catch up with the rest of her.
After I finished, she looked at her nails and said they looked nice. Of course they did, I could learn how to do this professionally if I wanted.
"So Lars is taking you?"
"Yeah…I think I browbeat him into it," I said, "but we'll have a great time especially if we leave early."
I finished her nails and told her to let them dry while I went to dig up a movie. I walked over to the closet where my mom stashed the overfill of our enormous collection of all kind of flicks. Enough to start our own store.
But while doing that I dislodged a box that was tucked nearby and it fell onto the floor. A bunch of aged looking photos poured out of them including some that were taken by a Polaroid camera. Talk about a blast from the past. I picked them up to replace and then noticed that some of them were of my mom and dad and…I frowned picking up one and looking at it closer.
My mom, dad and Brock standing in front of the lake dressed up like they were about to hit the water to cool off from a hot summer day. My mom stood in the middle and both men had an arm tucked around her waist. I knew that my dad and Brock had worked together once and been friends but didn't know my mother had been a part of that.
I picked up the photos and decided to take a closer look at them. Ruby looked up as I brought the box out of the closet instead of a movie.
I sat down on the floor next to her.
"Pictures…old ones of my parents and your boyfriend…"
Ruby narrowed her eyes.
"You mean Brock?"
"Yeah they were all good friends back then," she said, "Must have been before I was born."
My mom had been wearing a ring in that one photo that looked like the one my dad had put on her when they got married. So this had happened after the wedding. I sifted through more photos and saw some newer ones with my mom toting a toddler I knew to be my brother. Another where my dad sat on a blanket during a picnic with both of us and looking at the date, I knew I'd been almost two years old.
Of course I didn't remember any of that but it fascinated me to see what my parents had been like before I was part of their lives. It's hard to imagine parents having lives before you're born but they'd looked happier and even carefree.
So not like either of them now.
"He looks handsome."
Ruby snorted at me.
"Of course…he looks mostly the same but younger."
I took out a couple of books on the bottom of the photos that had been buried by them. Baby books, one in blue and one in pink and they were thick. I put them aside.
"You don't want to check them out?"
I shook my head.
"Later…look at these pictures…looks like my parents and Brock used to go fishing together."
I'd heard from mom that my dad used to like to take off and go fishing at a cabin. My mom apparently didn't like cleaning his catches judging from the expression in a couple of the photos. A photo of Brock and dad sitting in the boat…holding up more fish…I couldn't get over how much younger they looked, maybe early twenties.
"I wish I had photos of my dad."
Ruby sounded wistful as she looked at a couple photos where my parents sat in front of a decorated Christmas tree with both her and her brother. I know she didn't celebrate Christmas hardly at all except when my mom had invited her over to spend it with us later that day when we ate our traditionally turkey dinner. She didn't talk about it much but I knew it wasn't her favorite day of the year.
"I don't even know who he was or what he looks like," she said, "I mean do I look more like him because I don't really look like my mom."
No she didn't but then I looked more like my mom I thought where my brother was a spitting image of my dad. I thought that worked because he was the son and I the daughter.
"Maybe someday he'll come back."
"I doubt it…if he hasn't by now and besides it doesn't really matter."
I picked up another set of photos and these ones had Ruby in them when we'd gone to the beach house one summer when we both were 15. We were standing by the pier in our bathing suits, laughing at something. I couldn't remember what. Ruby reached over to pick up the pink baby book.
"Your mom kept this?"
"I suppose so…"
She thumbed through it and I glanced seeing a photo taken of my bald head and toothless smile. A photo of my footprint and my birth stats….including that I'd been born just after midnight…
Then photos of me in the first year of life hitting milestones and a lock of my hair wrapped in a pink ribbon fastened next to them.
"It's amazing how fast you can grow," Ruby said, "from the time you're born."
I couldn't remember anything sooner than starting kindergarten, except for maybe a flash of some place, the way my favorite blanket felt against my skin or the smell of my mom's perfume. I got up in the middle saying I needed to go dig up some more tequila while Ruby kept looking through it.
The bottle was nearly empty and I knew if I hit another my dad might notice. So I settled for getting some sweet tea from the refrigerator to take back. The breeze rattled a tree limb against a window which startled me. But no one was out there.
When I walked back into the entertainment room, Ruby looked up at me. I read something like surprise on her face.
"Did you see this?"
I sat back down after setting the iced tea on the table.
She pulled out an envelope that had been fastened to the back of my baby book. More photos probably, maybe there hadn't been enough space left in the book to post them. Ruby had pulled a couple of them out.
They were of her mom in the hospital holding a baby in her arms in bed while both Devlin and Brock stood by her. Others taken of each man holding Tiffany when she'd just been born not long before then…well nothing surprising about that.
"Brock holding a baby," Ruby said, "How sweet…I never took him for one who liked kids."
"Maybe as long as they're not his responsibility," she said, "Some men are like that when they're young."
"Maybe he'd have been a good father," she said, "I'm just glad I didn't have to test that."
She took the envelope to put the photos back but then she gave me a strange look.
"Something's still inside of it."
She reached inside and when she removed her hand, it held a small key. She looked at me, her eyes wider.
"What could this be?"
I had no idea and didn't think much of it. I had no idea at that point what was coming.